Be a Youth Pastor: Step-by-Step Career Guide

Learn how to become a youth pastor. Research the education requirements, training information and experience required for starting a career in youth ministry.

Should I Become a Youth Pastor?

Youth pastors work with church clergies to organize youth programs and provide guidance to teens and young adults of a parish. They should be able to recruit and train volunteers, and they must also be knowledgeable about scripture.

These workers must act as role models, both at work and in their daily lives. Religious devotion is needed for a career in the ministry.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Some employers require a bachelor's degree
Degree Fields Varies; degrees in theology, Biblical studies or youth ministry are common
Experience Previous experience working with youth, preferably in youth ministry
Key Skills Active listening, public speaking, decision making, instructional, leadership, creativity, enthusiasm, intermediate computer skills
Salary (2014) $43,950 per year (Median salary for all clergy)

Sources: Job postings by employers (October 2012), O*NET OnLine, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

While not always required, many churches and ministries seek youth pastors with bachelor's degrees. Some employers require that the degree be in religious studies or a related field. There are also youth ministry and theology bachelor's degree programs that focus on youth-related issues, leadership, counseling and Biblical concepts.

Coursework in these degree programs explore religious philosophies, religious history and church rituals. Classes prepare youth pastors to work with children and train them in the techniques and tools that are useful for engaging adolescents in spirituality and encouraging spiritual growth. Students may also take courses in public speaking, literature and writing.

Success Tips:

  • Complete an internship to get practical experience. Many youth ministry degree programs include an internship as part of their curricula. Students learn how to lead a group of youth, build team skills and pick an area of interest within youth ministry.
  • Volunteer to gain an understanding of the role. Volunteering is one way to network, meet potential employers and help future youth pastors figure out their strengths and weaknesses in the profession. They can find volunteer opportunities at local churches or community centers.

Step 2: Find Employment

Prospective youth pastors can look for jobs within the religious community or at local community venues. Volunteering and connecting with local ministries may lead to full-time or part-time employment. Individuals may also submit a resume and cover letter to larger religious organizations.

Success Tip:

  • Become ordained. Many churches require youth pastors to be ordained within the appropriate denomination. Ordination requirements vary between churches.

Step 3: Consider Career Advancement

Youth pastors may consider taking on more responsibility and leadership by becoming a minister. This typically requires the completion of a religious program at a college or seminary resulting in a master's degree, as well as becoming ordained through their religious organization or state licensed. Ministers take on advanced responsibilities such as leading congregations and performing religious ceremonies.

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